Australia's highest alpine village, Mount Hotham in Victoria, is currently experiencing its best start to the winter season since 2000. The summit, located 4.5 hours’ drive from Melbourne Airport, offers endless Aussie ski holiday options for all, from beginners to experienced snow bunnies, adaptive snow-goers to families and from singles to groups. "Hotham is very unique," says adaptive sportsperson Jason Sauer, who has called the mountain home for eight consecutive winters.
Boasting 13 chairlifts, three terrain parks and 35km of cross-country skiing area, Hotham is the obvious choice for those learning the ropes, those who want more of a challenge and those requiring assistance on the slopes. Disability Wintersport Australia (DWA) "has made skiing at Hotham much more achievable for people with a disability," Jason says. And with the most recent snowfall, life on the mountain is already in full swing.
Adaptive snowsports (or wheelchair users)
Mount Hotham has partnered with Disabled Wintersport Association (DWA) to ensure visitors have access to adaptive winter sport equipment and certified guides if additional assistance is required to hit the slopes. DWA volunteer guides can offer on-snow support, including lift loading and unloading, provide extra support and stability by tethering the sit ski and audible communication for the visually impaired.
"They looked after us so well. They knew the mountain inside out and had done a lot of training," says adaptive skier Samantha Dwyer.
Along with her sister, Jamie-Lee, who is also a wheelchair user, Samantha recently travelled to Mount Hotham because of its Signature Program with DWA.
"Skiing is something I never thought I could do because of my disability and when I found out I could do it, I wanted to give it a go," Jamie-Lee says. "It definitely woke me up and made me feel more alive."
Winter destinations such as Mount Hotham are a perfect option for singles craving adventure closer to home. The resort offers a range of accommodation to suit all budgets whether you're looking to stay in a lodge, chalet or apartment. After being fitted for skis or a snowboard, be sure to book your spot in a group lesson. With lessons under $100, you'll have plenty of change for a beer at après-ski.
Events are also plentiful throughout the winter season, providing an opportunity to mix with locals and other travellers. Held in September, Retro Day encourages you to wear a matching tracksuit while shredding the slopes, followed by the Retro After Party at The Bird. At this popular bar, enjoy a live band performance and fireworks display. Whip out your bumbag and you may take home the prize for best dressed!
New to Mount Hotham in 2018 is Igloo to Skidoo, an unique experience allowing couples to indulge in an overnight stay in an igloo and take a scenic Skidoo (snowmobile) ride. The sustainably built snowdome includes woodfire heating and solar-powdered battery plugs, enabling you to keep warm while you post your alpine experience on Instagram.
Receive personalised advice from one of the mountain’s knowledgeable instructors by arranging a private lesson for two. Afterward, visit Onsen Retreat + Spa, Australia's first indoor/outdoor alpine retreat. The Couples Mountain Escape Package is highly recommended for a relaxing yet romantic time in the Japanese-inspired surroundings.
Accommodation on Mount Hotham is plentiful for families with many featuring multiple bedrooms and self-contained facilities. For the ultimate convenience, opt for accommodation that offers ski-in, ski-out access, which makes the process of getting the kids to the chairlift easier. Once there, kids aged three to five years are welcomed into Mighty Mites, while kids aged six to 14 can join the Kids Club.
When you're not perfecting your slope skills, there are plenty of activities for the family to enjoy, including tobogganing, dog sled tours and snowmobile rides. Throughout the July school holidays, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Melbourne will host a pop-up on the mountain, inviting kids (and big kids) to engage in activities with their favourite coloured blocks and battle it out in the ultimate ‘family build challenge’.
Choosing a destination with something for everyone can prove to be challenging. Luckily Mount Hotham has taken care of the hard work for you with a variety of events scattered throughout the winter season. July is the perfect time to get your fellow females together for Womens Ski Week. Join an exclusive snowboarding clinic, Womens Snowboard Shred Session, which is run by the mountain’s top female instructors. By nightfall, hit the town and join the après drinks or rug up by the fire.
The mountain celebrates equality during the second week of September for Gay Ski Week. Expect to see an influx of colour during themed events including DJ sets, group dining, trivia, a scavenger hunt and the Rainbow Run Competition. Book your accommodation ahead of time to avoid your group missing out on all the fun!
Feature image: Mount Hotham, Victoria in winter (Image: Getty)